This weird thing happened when I quit my job (sometimes I like to say I retired LOL I’m the worst). I realized how much people attach your identity to your employment. “Do” is such a generic, far-reaching word, yet we’ve defined it to mean “work.”
“What do you ~do?”
Well, I do lots of things. I sleep. I shower. I drink Diet Coke. I hang with my baby. I read books. I drive a car. I breathe. I watch The Office. I walk up and down stairs. I think, therefore I am.
But that’s not what they’re asking, is it? They’re asking “What do you do as your Facebook Official Occupation?” I’m not trying to jump into a feminist rant about working moms, stay-at-home-moms, whether it counts as a job or not (it does), any of that. I’m talking about labeling my identity for those brief, stupid interactions with the acquaintances of daily life. Sorry. They’re not stupid interactions. I generally like meeting new people. These interactions just make me *feel* stupid.
Of course I am a stay-at-home mom. The hat has just never fit me, for some reason. I absolutely love it, more than I ever loved teaching even. But for some reason in my brain it just doesn’t feel like a sufficient label to supply people when they ask “What do you ~do?” For whatever reason, I struggle to label myself as a stay-at-home mom. Maybe once I have more kids or once I finally grow up and start to really focus on the staying at home part? I don’t know. For what it’s worth, though
I Am A Stay At Home Mom.
Last week as I was leaving the library there was this sweet little old lady, just infatuated with Reese. She walked out with us and was chatting with Reese and making faces and just being adorable. She mentioned in passing “I’m a teacher” and I responded with “Oh me too!”, feeling a slight twinge of guilt at the dishonesty. I mean, it was the middle of the day – a school day. But here I was in workout gear at the library, clearly not teaching. When she returned “Oh really? What grade?” I had to come clean. “Well… I guess I’m not currently a teacher. But I used to teach 8th grade, before her.” I smiled pathetically and motioned to Reese.
“Well I’m not either, but I’m still a teacher! Once a teacher, always a teacher.” And with that, she blew a kiss to Reese, climbed into her little Buick and drove away.
“Yeah.” I thought, “Yeah! Still a teacher!” It resonated. I mean, yes, every day I think I get a little farther away from the idea that I’ll ever go back to teaching. But it’s still a huge part of who I am. And until these teaching dreams (ok, nightmares) stop I think I still deserve the label. I have two degrees and 4 years of teaching under my belt that say so.
So I Am A Teacher.
Still, it feels misleading to say it, especially to someone who isn’t in education and doesn’t ~get it. And when someone asks me what I ~do, they’re asking what I do all day, and I’m not doing it in a school. I do still work (like, for money) which is really cool and I love it. I’ve been really fortunate in this freelance game and I’m ready to put on a ring and commit to it long term. Turns out I am really good and cranking out 500 word SEO-ed blog posts. Turns out you can do it while your baby naps, with a can of Diet Coke and Netflix on in the background. Turns out it leaves me plenty of time and energy to do the other things I love like be a mom and write this silly little blog.
I LOVE blogging. I love the connections I’ve made and things I’ve learned. I love when one of my posts really helps someone. But every time someone introduces me as a blogger – I cringe. Why???? I don’t know. I guess I just don’t want to wear that hat either, though it’s accurate. I’m a blogger. I blog. But not a lot of people follow my blog. My pictures suck. My design is out of date. My eyes roll themselves at the term “mommy blogger” even though I technically AM ONE and I also LOVE ALL THE OTHER MOMMY BLOGGERS. What is the matter with me, you ask? Obviously a lot of things. I think we can all agree, though, that blogging is weird and I’m at least a *little* justified in feeling weird about the label of blogger. But whether it’s paid freelance blogging or personal “mommy” blogging, it’s me.
I Am A Blogger.
What I really want to say I am seems too big; it scares me. I feel like an emo high schooler, shouting at my parents through a locked door. I couldn’t possibly have this label. I’m an amateur. I BARELY use it to make money. My college degrees don’t even qualify me to do it. It’s pretty presumptuous of you to just assign yourself this label arbitrarily, isn’t it Danica? It’s what I wish I could say, when those new acquaintances ask curiously
“So what do you ~do?”
It’s a whisper in the back of my mind, every time I mutter some response like “stay-at-home mom… former teacher…blog…freelance…” It’s not that I’m ashamed of those labels, or that they’re incorrect. It’s just that I want to say and be something more than that, but didn’t feel like I was quite worthy of it.
I recently landed a new job helping a businesswoman prepare her book for publishing. I’m ghostwriting, editing, advising, making it up as I go along. And I love it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever done before but somehow it feels like I’ve always known how to do it. The entire time I’m torn between thoughts of “I am good at this!” and “How long until she wises up and realizes I’m a fraud?”
Then one day, out of left field, in the middle of the conversation she said something like “This is why I hired a writer!”
I felt like flying, crying, giggling, and throwing up, all at once. My whole life I have loved writing, and everyone told me I was a “good writer.” But it’s always been in the context of school, or blogging. Last November I tried #NANOWRIMO and it terrified me. I didn’t finish. I couldn’t be a ~real writer, surely. But now… now I’m writing a lot. I’m writing for money. I’m thinking nonstop about the novel I abandoned in November, and itching to get back into it. Can I say it now? Can I assume the label? And it may still scare me shaking, but I’m gonna try to answer the next time I get it.
“So what do you ~do?”